The following testimony was shared by Mike Wachs in the legislative committee meeting on April 29, 2015. His touching account of his infant daughter's hearing loss journey has since been shared over 15,000 times on social media.
Hello, Mr. Chairman and Committee members. My name is Madison
Wright. I am 13 and a 7th grader at Dripping Springs MS. I play volleyball, run
track, Pre- AP student, a member of National Charity League and a National
Junior Honor Society officer and I wear hearing aids. I want to thank you for
giving me the opportunity to speak to you today about House Bill 2979.
The State of Texas requires hospitals to offer a hearing test to newborns. Thankfully, because this was required, I was diagnosed with a hearing loss at birth. This allowed me to take advantage of state services from an early age. Speech therapy and Early Childhood Intervention helped me to develop on par with my peers. I got hearing aids at the age of three. This helped my continued development so that I was not behind in speech, reading or comprehension. Many parents don’t realize their child has a hearing loss until they reach school age and are behind in school. I was fortunate to have the hearing aids at a young age.
My hearing aids were expensive, but thankfully my parents’ insurance company helped pay for these aids, just as they help for my contacts and glasses. I’m also fortunate that my parents were able to afford good quality hearing aids for me. It would be difficult for me to perform at my current level in school, athletically and socially without them.
One thing I have thought about is how my life would be different without hearing aids. Would I be in special ed classes? Would I be able to participate in the activities that I am currently a part of? Would I have the friends that I have? When I do not wear my hearing aids, like at a pool party, I miss conversation pieces and answer incorrectly. I miss some social cues that people give. I must focus on people’s cues and read their lips. If I had to be like this all the time, life would be confusing and exhausting. I can’t imagine going through school without them.
I feel sorry for kids with a hearing loss like me that are not able to afford a hearing aids for their hearing loss. I would hope an insurance company would treat hearing correction like they do vision correction and offer coverage for a corrective device, but that is not the case. During the critical years of development, hearing aids can help children increase their chances of a successful life.
For these reasons, and to give kids like me a chance to develop like their peers, I come to ask you for your support of House Bill 2979 to require insurance companies to provide coverage for hearing aids for children.
Thank you again for the opportunity to speak to you today.
Good afternoon. My name is Michael Wachs and I’ve come here from Houston to voice my support for HB 2979. I’ve come on behalf of my wife Stephanie Wittels Wachs who would’ve loved to be here — and would’ve loved to speak: she’s much better at speaking than me, so I’m sorry you got stuck with this Wachs.
I also come on behalf of our daughter Iris. Iris was born fifteen months ago. In Texas, as in most states, there are newborn hearing tests in the hospital, which she did not pass. We were told it’s not unusual for babies delivered via c-section to have fluid in their ears and affect the test. We were told to go to the ENT two weeks later for another, more in depth test. Two weeks came and the verdict was final: Iris had permanent hearing loss in both ears.
I don’t know if any of you have kids, but the first few weeks of being a first time parent is a period that’s filled with many diapers and little sleep. You have no idea what you’re doing or how anything is supposed to be. You are — quite literally — insane.
As my wife and I sat in the doctor’s office receiving the diagnosis and having our lives altered once again, the thing that was drilled into us of the utmost importance was early intervention — that is, for Iris to get into hearing aids as soon as possible.
A thick packet with a glossy cover of very major concerns was gently dropped into our laps. Without hearing aids — we were told — Iris would suffer in school: Following along without being able to hear would, obviously, be quite difficult. Without hearing aids — we were told — children have higher instances of depression and suicide because they feel isolated from the world. Also, the hearing aids — we were told — are not covered by insurance and will be about $6,000, plus routine maintenance like new ear molds.
Finding out that your daughter is in danger of falling behind in school and feeling isolation before she’s three weeks old while you’re temporarily crazy is a surreal thing to hear. It’s like meeting with a very depressing fortune teller — and then being asked to pay a $6,000 bill.
The most amazing thing about having a child with hearing loss while living in Houston is being able to be a client of the Center for Hearing and Speech. Because of a grant they have, we were able to borrow a pair of hearing aids for Iris up until she turns 18 months. She received her first pair at 6 weeks old.
Two weeks ago, we went into our speech therapy appointment and were told that Iris is at a speech level of an 18–24 month old — not only on track, but ahead of schedule because of speech therapy, my wife’s constant reinforcement, and — most critically — her hearing aids.
Because of a fortuitous grant we thankfully had access to, we we were able to temporarily not worry about coming up with money or delay getting Iris into hearing aids one second. Because of that early intervention, she is flourishing and talking up a storm.
I have seen the proof firsthand of how much technology and education can nullify hearing loss and allow kids to be kids, to live regular lives — full of potential and unhindered by any sort of constraint.
I will admit that is a little confusing — paradoxical? byzantine? — to argue the necessity of hearing at a…hearing; at the Capitol, where laws are publicly heard, discussed, and debated. By virtue of the fact of how our whole political system is setup, it practically screams, “Hearing is very important!”
But maybe you feel the government needs reforming. Okay.
I’d like to ask if hearing your favorite song, a breeze; or the voice of your father, mother, husband, wife, son, or daughter is necessary or just a nice luxury?
Thank you for your time.
Madison, a 13 year old from Dripping Springs, won the hearts of the entire legislative committee when she shared her testimony on April 29, 2015.